Lakes Student Media

Defining Altruism

Abby Vanderwall, Editor In Chief

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Altruism is defined as the belief in or practice of disinterested and selfless concern for the well-being of others. This personality trait is desired by society, as colleges and employers search for applicants that perform community service and promote a well-rounded character. A local example includes the Cum Laude program at Lakes Community High School, which requires 40 hours of volunteerism by the end of a student’s four years. Also, in order to be a member of the National Honor Society, an individual has to complete a certain amount of service hours each semester and over the summer. However, if the volunteer service is a requirement, are students truly exhibiting altruistic behavior?

I am a student that is currently attempting to secure the Cum Laude title at graduation, and I am also a member of National Honor Society. I would be lying if I said there were not times where trying to find service hours can be a difficult task for me and my peers. While the school does often send helpful emails about volunteer opportunities, it can be difficult to work around a busy schedule of school, sports, a job or other obligations. The question is, would students be going out of their way to find community service if it was not required by these programs?

Some may argue that students are not forced to join these activities that require volunteering. But what seems counterintuitive to me is that altruistic behavior is described as “selfless concern”, and if students are trying the receive the title of Cum Laude to be announced at graduation and wear a special chord, then isn’t their motivation not completely selfless? Think about how often you ask a high school student why they take an AP class and their response is “it looks good on college applications”. If a student is completing community service merely because they want to get into their first choice school, then they are not truly practicing the concern for the well-being of others.

Society has seemed to misconstrue what altruism means. Students often think they have to become a member of NHS or receive Cum Laude in order to get into a good college. However, students need to change that mindset. While I believe that these programs are beneficial for students to promote good character, students should seek out these opportunities not for their own reward, but because they are genuinely willing to help others. That is altruism.

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the voice of Lakes Community High School
Defining Altruism